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Biden Lifted Trump's Travel Ban. Here's How That Affects Refugees


The first time I met Corine Dehabey, Barack Obama was president, and Dehabey was busy helping Syrian refugee families settle in Toledo, Ohio. She helps run an organization called Us Together.


CORINE DEHABEY: That's what makes United States unique because everybody comes together to help this person.

SHAPIRO: One year later, Donald Trump was elected president. He closed the door to immigration from Syria and several other majority-Muslim countries. And in January of 2017, Dehabey told me the change was sudden. Flights were canceled. People who were expecting relatives to join them in Toledo were left wondering when they would ever see their brother or sister again.


DEHABEY: What can you tell someone? You know, we tell them, you know, to stay positive. Maybe things is going to be changed in the future.

SHAPIRO: Well, four years later, things have changed again. This week President Biden lifted Trump's travel ban. And Corine Dehabey joins us again from Toledo, Ohio. Good to talk to you.

DEHABEY: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Before you tell us your reaction to Biden's policies, can you give us a snapshot of what the last four years have been like for you? I mean, President Trump lowered the cap on refugees every year from more than 100,000 to a record low of 15,000. What did that mean for your organization?

DEHABEY: Well, it was really slow in the past four years. We had quite a few program cuts. And honestly, we struggled, but we pulled it through. And it was a little bit of agony to keep the programs alive and up and running.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Given all the budget cuts you've had over the last four years, do you think it'll be challenging to rebuild? I mean, the door slammed shut. Is it going to be slower to get everything back in place?

DEHABEY: Normally, it's slower, Ari, if the organization is shut down. But luckily, we're still open, so we're ready.

SHAPIRO: So tell us how you are feeling now that Biden has undone Trump's travel ban and promised to raise the cap on refugees to 125,000 or higher.

DEHABEY: Yes. We're feeling all of us, the organization, hopeful. So this is an excited. So we're hoping we're going to open our doors again and serve people again.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell us about the questions that your clients are asking you now about what this new future will look like?

DEHABEY: Oh, the questions - of course. They call us. Oh, they are - somebody overseas at the asylum country that I already interviewed are coming. They are traveling. How come we're not hiring people here? And I said, guys, wait a minute.

SHAPIRO: They're, like, ready for people to start coming in now.

DEHABEY: Yeah. And I was so busy, honestly, I didn't see what he said about the travel ban, but evidently, other people did. And they were calling me like - you know, and I said, well, if he said it today and revoked it today, it's not going to happen today - the travel, guys. You know, but that's what's been happening.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell us about a particular client, a specific story, someone who's really eager to see this new chapter begin?

DEHABEY: Honestly, we have a family I think you've met when you were here. His daughter, his son are overseas, and they are very hopeful they're going to meet him again.

SHAPIRO: This is an adult daughter and son.


SHAPIRO: How long has it been since they've seen each other?

DEHABEY: Close to five years now.

SHAPIRO: Wow. When we first met, you talked about what America stands for - openness, people coming together to help regardless of religion. Did the last four years change your view of what America represents?

DEHABEY: My view never changes. My view is humanity existed way before religion was formed. And God put us on Earth to lean on each other and to help each other, and that's what United States is all about - one hand holding other hands.

SHAPIRO: Corine Dehabey runs Us Together, a refugee resettlement organization in Toledo, Ohio. It's great to talk to you again. Thank you.

DEHABEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.